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In just his second season, Seth Jones has already become a difference maker on the National Hockey League’s best team.
Jones, the 20-year-old puck-moving defenseman, is the son of former longtime NBA player Popeye Jones. Yet, the Nashville Predators’ fourth-overall pick in the 2013 draft and Arlington, Texas native, has been a fixture on Nashville’s blue line, amassing 47 points in 141 games and helping the Predators to a league-best 41-16-7 record this season.
We spoke with Jones the morning of trade deadline day about his play, the Predators’ prospects and being an ambassador for the NHL in nontraditional markets.
XN: You guys made a big trade a couple of weeks ago. How does it feel to be on this side of the trade deadline where you guys are done. Are you still monitoring the moves and seeing what your rivals are doing?
SJ: You’re definitely looking around the league. I’ve probably refreshed Twitter a few times today. You wake up to some news as well. We made a couple of moves, and our team is looking pretty good right now. We’re just getting better as a team.
XN: How important has the captain Shea Weber and some of the veterans who have been through the battles, who have won the playoff round for your development, and how different has Peter Laviolette‘s style been for you here in Year 2?
SJ: It’s obviously great having veteran guys in the locker room. Matt Cullen won a Cup. A bunch of other guys have won playoff rounds and been deep in the playoffs, so it’s great to have that leadership and that veteran presence in the room; kind of calm things down when things aren’t going our way. For the most part, they’ve done a great job, our team has been pretty sharp for the most part this year. We’re coming off back-to-back losses for the first time this year, so that’s something we’re going through.
For the second part of that question, [Laviolette] has been awesome for everyone, not just me; very aggressive style of play, last year a little more conservative, but this year he wants the ‘D’ up in the play a lot more and adding to the offense when we can.
XN: You go from Texas, to the Western Hockey League and now to Nashville. You’re kind of carrying the flag for nontraditional hockey markets in the US. Do you feel maybe some of that – as an ambassador for that – and how have you seen Nashville grab onto you guys as you guys have gone to the top of the NHL standings?
SJ: It’s been fantastic, and I do see myself as someone kids can look up to. I played hockey in Dallas, and that’s obviously not too much of a hockey market. Now Nashville. I get out with the kids in Nashville when I can. I do some appearances here and there, a couple of times per month, skate with some little kids, get out and teach them and try to grow the game. It helps this year that we’re winning hockey games. Fans have been fantastic. It’s just been a tremendous atmosphere, and the city has been alive this year.
XN: Are you excited at the prospect of playoff hockey?
SJ: Yeah. Obviously, I’ve heard a lot about it and never got the chance to obviously be there. This year, it’s looking good for it. I think we’ll get a chance to play. I heard it’s a completely different game – everything is much tighter; not a lot of space out there. Obviously, there’s a lot more on the line.
XN: You see some of the moves that have made some moves around you – Chicago has made some moves, Winnipeg is beefing up, even the LAs and Anaheims – how do you guys react to that as a team as the playoffs come closer, and what do you think of your prospects as you go forward into postseason?
SJ: I don’t think it’s too much what other teams are doing. It’s more about us. That sounds pretty cheesy, but at the end of the day, all we can do is control what happens here in our locker room and what we do to get better every day in practice and how we play. It doesn’t matter who we play. Our guys are pretty confident that we’re able to win games if we play the right way.
XN: Seth, thanks a lot.
SJ: Alright, thanks a lot.
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